Sai (saizai) wrote in poly_atheism,
Sai
saizai
poly_atheism

"Posters are not allowed to try to redefine atheism as including both atheists and agnostics."

.... wtf?!

Any community that talks about this stuff, and doesn't even use proper non-ambiguous terms, is just doomed to have flamewars.

"Atheist" and "agnostic", unspecified, are virtually useless in any conversation *about* religion and stances towards theism.

Using those terms unspecified, and then saying "ha ha ha no you shall not define it as including both atheism and agnosticism" is ridiculous.

So as a short list:

1. Theism - belief in at least one god
- more variants than I want to get in to in a post about atheism...

2. Non-theism, aka weak atheism - no belief in a god. Includes the (mostly) mutually exclusive terms:
2.1 strong atheism - belief there *are* no gods
2.1.1 uncertain strong atheism - belief, but not knowledge, that there are no gods
2.2 strong agnosticism - belief that the existence of gods is definitely unknowable
2.3 weak agnosticism - belief that the existence of gods is currently *unknown*, but might be knowable with the right data
- both versions of agnosticism are compatible with theistic and strong-atheistic variants, if you're willing to do the twisty method of saying that 'knowledge' and 'belief' are separate, i.e. you don't *know* there is a god, and indeed you think you can't have any evidence for one, but you believe in one anyway... that's theistic (weak/strong) agnosticism.

... compatible with:
2.4 non-theistic religion - religion that lacks a deity, e.g. Taoism, Buddhism, "secular Christianity" (!), et al.
2.5 antitheism - belief that the belief in a god, is a Bad Thing
2.6 implicit vs explicit ~ism - whether someone's actually thought about it


That's the basic categories at least - the ones that come up most often. I find it really irritating when people discuss this, and then get in a fight over wtf the definition of 'atheist' is, and then resort to bullshit etymological "arguments" to "prove" that their definition is right. (?!!) Hint: in polite formal debate, you have to first agree on all definitions and evidence, THEN discuss what conclusions to draw. Otherwise you just end up it pointless headbutting.


FWIW it's my belief that weak agnosticism is the only rigorously defensible position, absent either data I don't have (e.g. direct communication from a god?) or the willingness to make moves I consider to be just really sketchy (and unnecessary), like a difference between knowledge and belief. YouTube has tons of videos against theism, some of which are pretty good (I am partial to those by 2LegHumanist and and blueadept111); I have a series attacking strong atheism (in favor of weak agnosticism).

I also think it's sad that religion seems to have a chokehold on 'sacred' experiences. There are many conversion stories I've read that basically start "I saw something amazingly beautiful" or "I had an incredible bit of luck and my life changed for the better" and end "... and therefore I believe in Jesus". WHY?!?! The only answer I can think of is because they have no other framework in which to parse that sort of experience. Which is, to me, sad, because then the religious crap takes over and dilutes the sacredness part. :-/

Anywho: Plz to not be using unqualified terms 'atheist' and 'agnostic'. Extra plz to not be arguing over definitions of such ambiguous terms. Kthxbye!
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I should say that insisting on any strict definition for any term or combination of terms is probably in error.

There are times when a definition is clearly wrong, such as using the term 'atheist' to mean 'God hater', but there are usually more than one way to interpret a term that are pretty acceptable.

I think the only time when I'm really that comfortable with someone stamping down one and only one definition for a term is when they do it purely within the context of a discussion or an essay; I might often start an essay with some elaboration on what I mean when I use certain terms.

I did similar on an essay I wrote for university on 'jealousy' where there was a specific kind of feeling I wanted to describe with the term 'jealousy' so I attached the term solely to this particular type of feeling, whilst accepting that outside my essay the term may be used to mean something else.

"FWIW it's my belief that weak agnosticism is the only rigorously defensible position,"

I wouldn't agree.

Part of the reason is because I draw a big line between what is 'defensible' and what is 'provable'.

I would not claim to know that there is a God (I'm agnostic) but I none the less believe that there is no God (usually referred to as 'strong atheism'). After all, not everything that is believed has to be known.

I wouldn't be quick to describe it as 'faith' however, although I can see how people might say it is. It's just that on the balance of evidence I find it rather unlikely that there are God/gods. My reasons for why would depend on the type of G/god figure I'm not believing in :oP

"I also think it's sad that religion seems to have a chokehold on 'sacred' experiences. There are many conversion stories I've read that basically start "I saw something amazingly beautiful" or "I had an incredible bit of luck and my life changed for the better" and end "... and therefore I believe in Jesus". WHY?!?! The only answer I can think of is because they have no other framework in which to parse that sort of experience."

Agreed.

I think what is often termed 'religious experience' is often experienced by atheists but interpreted into a non-theistic framework.

I can appreciate how people may interpret it as a spiritual or divine experience, but I don't think it's necessary.
"I would not claim to know that there is a God" - typo for "... that there is no god" I presume?

It sounds like you're either an agnostic atheist (if you think you actually have *no* evidence for it) or an uncertain strong atheist (if you think you *do* have evidence for it, but that it's weak evidence).

I confess though that I don't really believe in this "I believe but I don't have any reason" dodge; I think it's a gloss for "I believe because of ___, but I don't think that I should". *shrug* YKIOK though of course. ;)
Was a typo.

I identify as an agnostic atheist. I do have arguments and reasons for why I believe as I believe, and ones that I think are persuasive and strong, but they only indicate the best direction of belief, not knowledge.

"I confess though that I don't really believe in this "I believe but I don't have any reason" dodge; I think it's a gloss for "I believe because of ___, but I don't think that I should". *shrug*"

Well, as I said, I believe on balance of evidence, hence that's not my position.

However, it's quite possible to believe without evidence or in spite of evidence; it's called 'faith'. Would be rather odd to have faith that there is no God, but faith that there is a God, even in spite of evidence, is well documented.
>I think what is often termed 'religious experience' is often experienced by >atheists but interpreted into a non-theistic framework.

>I can appreciate how people may interpret it as a spiritual or divine >experience, but I don't think it's necessary.

Oh, yes... I have so often felt this when sharing a goose-pimply amazing experience with someone who describes the experience as "spiritual" and interprets it differently, even though I imagine that we may have felt exactly the same thing.

I am challenged to disentangle how much of the apparent disagreement is really just different uses of words (simply grasping with inadequate vocabularies) and how truly is a difference in outlook. I was once guilty of always assuming it was the latter.
FWIW it's my belief that weak agnosticism is the only rigorously defensible position

I'm pretty sure my apatheism is defensable, but that would require me to care enough to bother defending it ;)

Mostly I find the existence or absence of a deity irrelevant to my life. I maintain that this is distinctly different from either strong or weak agnosticism. Because fundamentally I just don't CARE whether or not god is provable. It's kinda fun to watch other people debate it sometimes though :)

I also think it's sad that religion seems to have a chokehold on 'sacred' experiences.

The largest epiphany of my life came while reading the book Chaos. I had a sudden vision of life the universe and everything and how it all together on many levels. It was beautiful. That's why I say chaos theory is my religion. But that's not incompatible with apatheism because it doesn't have anything to say about the existence of or absence of a deity.
I may have to steal the term apatheism from you.

zabster's father is a devout atheist. I had been warned of his propensity to proselytize, even to agnostics. That anything less than a total certainty of the non-existence of a god was enough to push his talk button.

When we finally met, eventually the conversation got around to his asking me something to the effect of "So, Liza says that you're an atheist". To which I replied that I didn't know whether or not a god exists, nor do I care. That I find the whole question pretty much irrelevent.
Bwaha! How did THAT go over?

I didn't invent the term and I don't even remember who I first got it from so you're entirely welcome to it, no stealing required :)
He said something like "Oh, OK" and went on to the next subject.

I guess he decided that not caring was just as good as not believing.

hitchhiker

9 years ago

plymouth

9 years ago

Heh, apatheism. ^^

It's compatible with any form of nontheism, I think, but only with some forms of theism. (E.g. "ok so Yahweh exists and is gonna send me to hell... ah whatever"?)
Any community that talks about this stuff, and doesn't even use proper non-ambiguous terms, is just doomed to have flamewars.


You say that like flamewars are a bad thing. Flamewars between tards who can't come up with two brain cells to rub together are a bad thing. However, flamewars between intelligent, educated and literate people can be quite the joy to behold.
Flamewars are flamewars, IME, when they devolve to something on the order of "zie1 said zie2 said". I've seen some between relatively intelligent folk, and it's just as stupid and wasteful as between plebs.

Heated discussions where participants are *not* making fallacies, and especially not just butting heads on an axiom conflict a la "no you must accept my definition!" or "no you must accept my values!" - i.e. where they agree on all the premises and just not on the conclusions - *those* can be quite interesting.

Sadly, they're also rare.
And personal attacks can be quite entertaining. For example in one flamewar a friend used the line:
"Allow me to peel back the foreskin of ignorance and apply the wire brush of enlightenment".

Moronic namecalling is boring. Creative and well phrased insults are fun to both read and exchange.

saizai

9 years ago

This discussion is really interesting because it mimics something I see in the polyamory community all the time.

Words are useless if everyone using them has a completely different definition for them. For that reason, we have to agree on a bare minimum for what a word should mean.

But attempting to narrow a definition down too far and say, "You cannot call youself [polyamorous, atheist, etc.] if you don't fit this very specific and detailed definition" tends to exclude a lot of people who don't fit exactly but who might benefit a great deal from the community and have a lot to share.

I think it's helpful to take a utilitarian view. It benefits a community to have a basic definition of terms so that people understand its purpose. But if you get too narrow then it simply leads to a lot of pointless debate about semantics (see poly_atheists) instead of discussing the real issues the community was intended for. You aren't really *benefitting* your members if you are engaging in endless arguments about the Websters definition vs. the American Heritage definition. And then of course there's common usage, which is not always immediately reflected in the dictionary. Anyone who claims to know the One True Definition of a term as broad as polyamory or atheism is...well...wrong.

In communities like this I think it's a good idea to let people self-identify, and then just ask them to be specific about their views/practices in their posts.

For example, someone might post, "I don't worship a God but I'm not 100% convinced that gods can't exist. However, I have two partners--a Catholic and a very convinced atheist. We are considering having children together. How can we reconcile our belief systems and raise our children in a way that suits us all?"

Does it really matter if this person is technically an atheist? Isn't it possible to offer advice and support regardless?


I think that what is helpful is neither to argue over definitions, or to go the 'omg don't label me !!!!1!1!" route, but to have several accurate words that people can use, so that you can get beyond what's supposed to be just the intro phase and start actually talking about things.

Your example is I think certainly valid in itself, but that's a case of someone actually going into the details. Always preferable, but one still needs a shorthand.
I'm not sure we need to provide people a list of accepted terms.

All that is required really is that if someone is using the term to mean something rather specific then they should explain their usage.

Overt self-definition solves a lot of problems :o)

eriktrips

9 years ago

saizai

9 years ago

I don't know if I'd be a weak or strong atheist or agnostic by your definition. Here's how I feel: To me the idea that there is an omnipotent being that created the universe and plays an active role in the daily activities of humans - i.e. can be prayed to for favors, guidance, etc. - is absurd, on the order of the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I do, however, believe that it is entirely possible that there are beings with higher powers than humans out there in the universe. In fact, I think it would be somewhat pathetic if humans are the most intelligent life-forms in existence. It is possible that many would consider these beings, should their existence be discovered and proved, to be gods. But I think that's just another word for something that we don't quite understand yet - i.e., magic.

I remember when I first came to the realization (or belief, if you prefer) that Man created God, and not the other way around. I was on a field trip with high school classmates riding on a bus, discussing the existence of God. The moment was so profound that I wrote a song about it; maybe I'll get it recorded one of these days...

There are many conversion stories I've read that basically start "I saw something amazingly beautiful" or "I had an incredible bit of luck and my life changed for the better" and end "... and therefore I believe in Jesus". WHY?!?!

Yes, this kind of thinking has always really bothered me as well. And is also part of the problem I have with paganism, at least the brands of it that assign god/desses to every living thing. I find that anthropomorphism diminishes the inherent value of nature, not enhances it. A tree doesn't care if I dance around it naked (although that can be fun ;-) ), it "cares" if I provide it nourishment and keep it from getting cut down.

"I do, however, believe that it is entirely possible that there are beings with higher powers than humans out there in the universe. In fact, I think it would be somewhat pathetic if humans are the most intelligent life-forms in existence."

There are more stars within just the observable portion of this possibly infinite universe than there are grains of sand on all of Earth's beaches (combining all the oceans, lakes, and rivers). Out of all that... and with nine billion years for things to evolve even before our 4.6 billion year old Earth came to be born... well...

The implications are extremely profound should my feeling about the existence of higher intelligences "out there" turn out to be right; the implications are equally staggeringly profound if my gut feeling is wrong and we are indeed alone.
FWIW on definitions, I think that makes you strong atheist about intercessory and/or creationist gods, and (weak?) agnostic about others.

I'd like to hear that song sometime...
I wouldn't call myself a weak agnostic, but would say that science isn't advanced enough to have disproved gods - I have seen it very convincingly argued that that is not necessary. Something doesn't have to be provable as false to be false. It can still be nonsense. Believing that something has been disproven when it's not falsifiable would I think be unscientific. I would still call myself an atheist, among other things.

It's further confusing that "belief" can have different meanings. I would hope that most godless types haven't got much use for the blind faith brand, but the kind that is conviction of something's truth based on evidence. I tend to avoid using the word belief though because I've seen it used as a handle to label atheism as a religion. (Same with 'theory' to assert that evolution is unproven (which isn't true).)

Good point # paragraph the second-last. Both Gould and Dawkins talk about sense of wonder as not being entirely the territory of religious experience. Of course we can experience awe while not having it spoiled by wondering about (or even knowing) the mechanism of what you're observing (aurora borealis, butterfly leaving a cocoon, birds flying in neat formation with each other somehow.... etc).

Oh, and just to be a pain in the ass, theoretically someone could believe in gods but believe that they are malevolent and one should beware drawing their attention. ;)
The problem is that "nonsense" can, occasionally, be true. Most current theories about subatomic physics are some brand of "nonsense"; many now-accepted theories used to be thought so. So I don't believe that it's a good thing by which to judge a theory. And if it's not falsifiable, is there *any* scientific experiment that could ever disprove it? I would guess not.

One could also believe in gods, AND believe that one should oppose them (for whatever reason)... i.e. someone who actually does 'hate God' as the fundies like to accuse.
I was really thinking more along the lines of "the invisible purple unicorn wants you to tap-dance". Not things about quarks and leptons, black holes or wormholes, time behaving in ways unfamiliar to us, other universes.... (but not the What the Bleep movies or the rest of the new-age "quantum" twaddle genre.) I wouldn't define things that sound bizarre to laymen as "nonsensical," just (to some) incomprehensible. Did you have some other specific example in mind?



2.1 strong atheism - belief there *are* no gods
2.1.1 uncertain strong atheism - belief, but not knowledge, that there are no gods


I'm clearly in the 2.1.1 category, but I'm puzzling over what the difference is between this and plain old 2.1. Is your concept of 2.1 intended to mean "conviction, based on knowledge and reasoning, that their are no gods," but that the arguments of a 2.1 are not found sufficiently compelling to a 2.1.1?

I'm pretty nearly convinced that it's not possible to ever come up a way to PROVE that there are no gods; but, like funcrunch, I consider the plausibility of any god existing at all about equal to the plausibility of the flying spaghetti monster. I don't spend any time worrying about chances that seem that extremely slim.
Basically, yes. I've seen many people be essentially strong atheists, but make a caveat that they might not know for absolute sure, but they are 99.999~% sure that there is no god.

Whereas a weak-agnostic (like myself) would say that there simply is *no* evidence either way.

And y'never know, the FSM might indeed exist. ;)
If enough of us believe in the FSM we'll will him into being ;)
You may find the following website and it's use of the term interesting:

Confessions of a Christian Agnostic

Essnetially an agnostic (doesn't know God exists) theist (but believes in God anyway) :oD